Fairmount: Bookhaven Survives Despite Popularity of E-readers

Booken is a bookstore that buys, sells, and trades hard copies of books.
Booken is a bookstore that buys, sells and trades hard copies of books.

Books never run out of batteries. E-readers can feature a variety of books. Books have that certain smell. E-readers have a light for late-night reads.

The debate may never end. Supporters of e-readers wonder why people would buy a copy of a book or newspaper when you can get it online.

But Bookhaven owners Rolf and Ricci Andeer claim people still want hard copies. The evidence? Their bookstore is still going strong after 25 years. The shop buys, trades and sells an assortment of books and was nominated for Best Bookstore Award in Philadelphia in 2013 by TV station PHL17.

The couple entered the industry when buying an actual hard copy was the only way to own a book. Neither could have predicted how easy it would become to access books.

When the Kindle was released in 2007, the Andeers did not really see a change in sales. Since it was the first e-reader, it appeared people were unsure whether tablets would become necessary to everyday life.

By 2009, Nooks and tablets posed a serious threat to Bookhaven as the couple saw a decline in sales and in customers.

Bookhaven co-founder Rolf Andeer sits at the checkout/reading area.
Bookhaven co-founder Rolf Andeer sits at the checkout/reading area.

“The bookstore saw some struggles and we were not sure if we were going to make it,” said Rolf. “It’s a disappointment what is happening. Print is almost dying.”

According to the Pew Research Center, only 28 percent of people have read an e-book versus within the last year compared with 69 percent who have read a print book during that period. However, the e-book numbers went up 11 percent within two years.

But Ricci believes e-readers will not stay.

“We are quickly discovering e-readers and online books are just a fad,” said Ricci.

During the release of new technology, customers remained loyal to Bookhaven and the couple survived the new competition.

It was not just books that brought customers back; the atmosphere felt fitting to those looking for a long read.

Kris Varga, who resides only a few blocks from the bookstore, began reading at Bookhaven when he moved into the area about a year ago. He did try out an e-reader, but was immediatey turned off.

“They are uncomfortable on my eyes,” said Varga. “I like the presence of holding a book … something I’ll never let go.”

As he was familiarizing himself with the area, Varga stumbled upon the cramped building. He had always enjoy reading and was immediately drawn to Bookhaven for comfort.

“It has a very traditional style that feels as if you’re rummaging through your grandparent’s book collection,” said Varga. “[It has] style and personality.”

While the two-story bookstore is cozy and intimate, Varga enjoys his reads because of the bookstore’s mascot.

“[Harry the cat] will lay with you as you read,” said Varga. “He’s very friendly and even has his own door on a bookshelf, which acts as a gateway between their apartment next door and Bookhaven.”

Array of science fiction books stacked on the window sill
An array of science fiction books was stacked on the window sill.

According to Ricci, the long-haired orange tabby comes and goes as he pleases, but loves curling up with visitors looking for a good read. He is almost child-like in the way he hopes for a bedtime story.

Varga also noted how Bookhaven does not pressure customers to purchase a book or limit their browsing time.

With print, people can look over an entire book without buying it; however, e-readers only allow people to view a sample without purchasing it. 

Varga recognizes the concern of people not purchasing books and hopes people will keep reading hard copies. Ricci, too, understands the futility of people just reading instead of buying, but she is not concerned.

She wants customers to feel like they can read as long as they want in the store.  She knows that those who love books will want to keep them.

“There is nothing better than smelling and holding a good book,” said Ricci. “[Hard copy] books will never truly die.”

– Text and images by Amber Curtis


  1. Dear Rolf and Ricci Andeer,

    Today being a very hot August day, I found cool relief from the heat, inside your bookstore.

    I made it to the third floor, and was petting the cat on your couch, before I realized it had been my favorite bookstore, when I was a kid.

    In an era when large corporations dominate the landscape – Starbucks, McDonald’s, target, Barnes and nobles – in the U.S., Brazil, and China – what a pleasure it was to peruse novels in a locale defined by its personality and charm.

    Keith Shazad Malik Rhodes

  2. Rolf,

    We swam together at Birmingham Groves High School in the 1960s. I hope you are doing well and still selling books. I continue to buy hardcover books and cannot read “books” on Kindle, etc.! Keep up the good work!!

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